Friday, August 12, 2016

Absence, Comfort, and Connection

Picture Book: Life Without Nico
Author: Andrea Maturana
Illustrator: Francisco Javier Olea
Summary: Niko and Maia are best friends who are often together having fun.
Even when they aren’t together, they seem connected. There is surprise and a big adjustment following the announcement that Niko’s family is moving to Australia. When it’s time to say goodbye, Nico gives Maia a globe ornament to remember him. 
Maia's sorrow is beautifully expressed and her grief is given space:
Now time passes slowly,
and the emptiness follows Maia
everywhere she goes.
It’s boring. She can’t play with it,
and it won’t let other children near.
Maia is sad at first, but healing comes little by little, particularly when she discovers a kitten, 
makes a new friend at school, and explores a new passion playing the piano. 
On the day of Nico’s return, Maia worries that her new life is too full for him to have room, but when they are reunited, Maia understands that Nico has always been with her. 
Time and distance has not changed that.
Hanna’s Comments: This is a simple story, but it has such depth and is beautifully told and rendered via the illustrations. Recent events in my church family have reminded me how important it is to help children process their feelings about sudden goodbyes, no matter the circumstances. This story, unlike some about loss, offers a return. When such separations are painful, it is very valuable to offer lessons to children about the comfort God can give, hope that strengthens us, and how human connections can endure, especially when those lessons are grounded in faith or scripture.  
Publisher (in English) & Date: Kids Can Press, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Relate this story to any Bible story where someone who is loved has to say goodbye. If hope for a reunion is evident all the better. This works well with the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection or ascension and return.
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children who are feeling a loss or the absence of a friend or key figure in your faith family. Relate the return of Niko to concepts of hope and/or eternal life.